MANATEE — Spurred by the death of a Bayshore High cheerleader, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is holding a gun buyback to help deter future violent crimes.
Though the sight of dozens of soon-to-be-destroyed guns might be comforting, multiple studies have shown that buyback programs probably don’t reduce gun violence.
The studies show that the programs make only a small dent in the local gun market. Many of the guns that are turned in don’t work. Often, middle-aged and elderly people are getting rid of their guns for some quick cash.
“It’s highly unlikely that a person who would use guns for violence would turn them in,” said Gary Kleck, a Florida State University criminology professor who studies gun control.
Sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow concedes that would-be criminals are unlikely to surrender their guns. But he said the program might collect a gun that otherwise would one day be used in a crime.
“We’re trying to do something here that’s proactive,” he said. “Whether or not it works, how can you tell?”
Two recent shooting deaths have captured the attention of the community and spurred numerous calls for reducing gun violence.
After the high school football games in Manatee on Sept. 4, detectives say 18-year-old Daniel Williams fired into a car carrying four female students, killing 17-year-old Jasmine Thompson of Bayshore High.
Just a month earlier, deputies say 18-year-old DeJuan Williams, a recent Bayshore graduate, was shot to death outside his home by 16-year-old Byron Galloway.
At the no-questions-asked buyback Sept. 19, gun owners do not have to present an ID and will receive $50 for revolvers and $100 for rifles or shotguns.
At a buyback event in May, the sheriff’s office collected 77 guns. Bristow said most of the guns were turned in by senior citizens. “Who’s to say that someone wouldn’t commit a burglary and steal that gun and then use it in a crime?” he said.
But studies from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California-Davis and the University of Missouri-St. Louis all show no significant drop in violent crime after gun buybacks.
A 2001 report on youth violence by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office says, “There is some evidence that most of the guns turned in are not functional and that most persons turning in guns have other guns at home.”
The report suggests curbing youth violence with programs that reinforce positive behavior and provide training for parents and teachers.
Kleck said officials continue to hold buybacks because it allows them to look like they are reducing gun-related crime without angering people who support gun rights. “It’s a politically cost-free way of seeming to do something about the violence,” he said.
Kleck advocates spending more on drug treatment programs. Reduced demand for drugs such as cocaine or heroin, he said, would put a dent in the overall drug market, a key contributor to gun violence.
Gwendolyn Brown, chairwoman of the Manatee County Commission, was one of several officials at a recent news conference to express anger about the recent shootings.
She said she’s “not the biggest fan” of gun buyback programs, but is willing to see if this week’s program will help. She will co-host a community forum about neighborhood violence on Saturday, just before the gun buyback.
“I’m definitely hopeful that the kids would want to see a change,” she said, “and that the community itself will say, ‘This is just not the life I want to live.’”